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Environment

This Gorilla Escaped a London Zoo — But Had a Different Fate Than Harambe

An 18-year-old silverback gorilla called Kumbuka escaped from its enclosure at the London Zoo on Thursday, and did not make it to any public areas. Visitors were shaken, but unharmed.

The 400-pound Kumbuka  broke out of his back den area, into another secured area. He was subdued by a tranquilizer dart and returned safely to his pen.

"We can confirm he is awake and well," the zoo said in a statement.

This course of events — and how Kumbuka was treated — comes in stark contrast with the case of Harambe.

Harambe was a 17-year-old Western Lowlands Gorilla living at a zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio, when a 3-year-old boy crawled into his enclosure. Harambe dragged the child around his enclosure a bit. Zoo workers, fearing the child may be injured or killed, decided to shoot Harambe with a gun.

The incident immediately caused backlash of animal lovers around the world. Harambe quickly became a meme and sparked a conversation around weighing the rights of animals who are kept in captivity versus that of humans.

Some questioned if zoos had any place in an ethical society, while others weighed if society should put equal value on the suffering of animals and humans.

There are big differences in these cases — with Harambe, a young child was at risk of injury or death. With Kumbuka, no one was in immediate danger.

Read More: These Are the Most Endangered Animals in the World

But the similarities in the cases begs the question — could Harambe have been treated better? He didn’t intentionally endanger a child, so did he deserve to die? Could he have been treated in a more humane way, like Kumbuka?

The answer to this question is important.

Animals are our closest relative in nature and the environment. We keep them as pets, we take great measures to protect endangered species, and regardless of how you feel about zoos, we should do everything in our power to keep them safe in captivity.

As countries around the world agree to start taking big steps to reduce carbon emissions to help slow climate change, respect for the environment. Shouldn’t that same respect be extended to animals?

For one wildlife group, simply re-securing Kumbuka was not enough of a solution.

Read More: What can be learned from Nola the rhino’s death?

The Born Free Foundation urged the incident to become a reminder of the potential consequences of keeping a dangerous wild animals in captivity and has called for an investigation into the safety and security of great apes in UK zoos.

For now, "The exhibit is secure and we are grateful to all of our staff and visitors for their cooperation, enabling us to resolve the situation quickly and efficiently," the London Zoo said.

Kumbuka is safe, and back to flirting with other gorillas in London, but we as Global Citizens should keep asking the question — is this how we want to treat our animals?